As popular terms do, biohacking became part of commercial ventures. The “meal-replacement” drink Soylent, Ensure for Millennials, was touted as a biohack. Biohacking has become a marketing buzzword used to sell unregulated “dietary supplements” and to repackage old products, such as coffee with butter. People have added cream to coffee since the beginning of time, but the new iteration is more expensive and is, again, supposed to hack your brain.
Like any fad that tries to sell shortcuts to biology, or any approach in life that claims to shortcut hard work, what the current iteration of biohackers is mostly selling is untested (or “It worked for me!”) health advice that is supposed to upend science. Trying these things tends to result in wasted money and time at best.
Still, there’s value in a sense of control over our own physiology in times when the outside world can seem uncontrollable. So to offer those same benefits in addition to actual biological benefit, here are my top biohacks. Unlike the biohacks that the other gurus are out there selling, these are all-natural. I call them—and I insist on the capitalization here—NATURAL BIOHACKS.
These hacks appear in no particular order because they are all extremely potent. If you’ve got all of them mastered and you still feel compelled to invest in other forms of body-self-optimization, Godspeed. I’ve never met anyone who has.
Sleep (“brain cleansing”?) will extend your life and help prevent pretty much every disease. Yes, even the infectious ones, since sleep deprivation can leave the immune system in tatters. Sleep requires no effort and costs nothing, yet people tend to go out of their way not to do it enough and to brag about not doing it.
Sleep should be an easy sell. It’s a deep meditative state where you explore your subconscious and the dense ball of neurons in our heads wash themselves, clearing out the metabolic by-products (“toxins”). If the pro-work, anti-sleep culture makes you feel lame and self-conscious about, say, leaving a party to go home and sleep, try saying, “I’m going to go biohack my brain.” Then run out of the room.
The key to sleep is to save the last hour of the day for non-work-related things that let your brain cool down. I call this the Amazing Hour, but you can call it whatever you like. Other basic steps to mastering this biohack: no phones in bed, no caffeine or prescription amphetamines before bed, no alcohol before bed because it messes with sleep cycles. Maintain a somewhat regular sleep schedule, and keep your bedroom dark—or wear an eye mask and bring the darkness wherever you go.
Time in nature
The ways natural environments hack our brains are still open questions in a lot of ways, but the notion is common sense. Time in nature has been found likely to decrease brooding, and increase healing after surgery, among other benefits. Still, year after year, the average amount of time people spend indoors increases in wealthy countries. If this is happening to you, you could try ecotherapy or potentially get a prescription for park time from your doctor.